Review: Resident Evil: Code Veronica X HD

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Most of us have had the experience of strolling through some kind of museum of history. You sidle up to the glass and peer in to view, say, a Gutenberg printing press. Your first reaction might be, “Hey, that’s pretty cool.” Your second is probably, “Wow, I can’t believe they ever actually made books and newspapers using that.”
Playing the HD remake of Resident Evil: Code Veronica X (now available for Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network as part of Resident Evil’s 15th anniversary) is a lot like visiting that museum.

Back in the halcyon days of 2000, before the SEGA Dreamcast’s promise imploded like the 2011 Red Sox’ playoff aspirations, Code Veronica was considered a groundbreaking evolution for the world’s then-most popular survival horror series. (If you can believe it, Game Informer ranked it as the 69th best video game as recently as two years ago.) Today, it’s a wonky relic with a soapy plotline, re-wrapped in a sheen of HD-buffed cutscenes.

The most basic aspect of the game—the simple act of getting from point A to point B—is aggravating to the point of rendering the game almost unplayable. Claire and Chris Redfield, our spunky protagonists, move like mannequins on a dollhouse platform, swiveling robotically in whichever direction you jerk the left analog stick. (You can ignore the right stick altogether—360 camera look wasn’t part of the fun at the the turn of the millennium, and it hasn’t been rectified here). It’s actually easier to use the D-pad—yes, the D-pad—to move around the cramped hallways of the compound on Rockfort island. There were times I felt as though I was playing a Nintendo DS game instead of a digital download on a major console.

Hampered movement makes everything you do frustrating, from fending off (or, better, dodging) packs of T-Virus zombies to lining yourself up with the all-too-rare typewriters to simply save your progress (and unlike Resident Evil 4, you have to have ink ribbons in hand to use them. Shades of the Gutenberg printing press.) Ugh and double-ugh.

Not even the 180-degree turn, which was hailed at the time as a huge leap forward in combat tactics, can save you from abject frustration (and a torn-out neck) when you’re beset by packs of creepazoids or befuddled by the game’s all-too-cheap “Surprise! There’s a zombie around the corner!” encounters.

The HD sheen has certainly juiced the cutscenes, which hint at a game that would actually be, you know, fun to play. Watching Wesker chewing scenery as he vainly tries to resurrect his sinister sister or Claire alternately going all Lara Croft or battling sexual tension with Steve Burnside is almost as entertaining as your average episode of Vampire Diaries. When the cutscenes end, I can’t help but be reminded strongly of the PlayStation 2’s Final Fantasy VII: Dirge of Cerberus, another game where the amazing and acrobatic things the lead character can do in the cutscenes somehow don’t translate to what he (and you) can actually do in the game.

Maybe you’re a Resident Evil completest. If so, by all means feel free to bash your head against Code Veronica X’s antiquated control scheme—maybe the plot-twisting payoff will be worth it. The rest of us can go back to blasting black tentacles and zombies with the buff-and-gruff version of Chris Redfield in Resident Evil 5.

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Pros:
+ The HD cutscenes look great
+ The story’s still a soap opera trip of epic proportions

Cons:
– The dreadfully dated movement system is unbearable
– Both the puzzles and boo!-type zombie attacks are cheap

Game Info:
Platform: Reviewed on Xbox 360 via XBLA; also available for PS3 via PSN
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Release Date: 9/27/2011
Genre: Survival Horror
ESRB Rating: Mature
Players: 1
Source: Review code provided by publisher

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About the Author

Aaron R. Conklin has been writing about games and games culture for more than 15 years. A former contributor to Computer Games Magazine and Massive Magazine, his writing has appeared on IGN.com and in newspapers and alt-weeklies across the country. Conklin's an unapologetic Minnesota sports fan living in Madison, Wisconsin, home of the Midwest's most underrated gaming vibe.